STURBRIDGE (CBS) — More than, 2,800 riders began the 38th Pan-Mass Challenge Saturday morning, leaving the starting line in Sturbridge around 5:30 a.m.

The PMC, the single most successful athletic fundraising event in the country, was started by Billy Starr in 1980. Since then, PMC cyclists have raised more than $547 million for patient care and cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” Starr told WBZ-TV’s Anna Meiler before crossing the starting line himself Saturday morning. “This is a celebration, but there’s serious work behind it … and we’re on our way to P-town!”

The beginning of the Pan-Mass Challenge in Sturbridge Saturday morning. (WBZ-TV)

The PMC offers 12 different routes, ranging from 25 to 192 miles in distance. Cyclists will be pedaling through 46 Massachusetts towns throughout the weekend. All together, they will ride over 1 million miles Saturday and Sunday.

More: Support During Westwood’s PMC Kids Ride Hits Home For Young Cancer Survivors

In Wellesley, thousands more riders took off after opening ceremonies that featured local country singer Caroline Gray singing the National Anthem.

There were so many cyclists that they had to walk their bikes before they could get to the main road, where there was more room to ride.

WBZ-TV’s Breana Pitts reports

Each rider in the PMC commits to raise between $500 and $7,800.

“We support one of the greatest cancer institutes in the world,” said David Hellman, Vice President of Operations for the PMC. “And a half a billion dollars plus since 1980 has definitely made a difference. We know it has made a difference in things like childhood leukemia, which had a 20 percent survival rate back when the PMC started. Now it’s well over 80 percent today.”

Last year, riders raised a record $47 million for patient care and cancer research–so this year, they’re aiming for $48 million.

“If you’re in the cancer community, seeing a group like this working on behalf of you and your family, it’s obviously very encouraging,” Starr said. “But the money is critical for the work they do with Dana Farber. We’re gonna turn the crank of progress on cancer research through events like the PMC.”

More: ‘Beyond The Weekend’: A Letter From Cancer Survivor, 19-Year PMC Rider

$10 million is dedicated to research labs, $8 million to hiring world-renowned physicians and researchers, and $6 million specifically designated to pediatric oncology.

WBZ is proud to be your PMC station.


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